ILOILO CITY, Philippines—Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” which pummeled Iloilo and Aklan, among other provinces, in November, has failed to dampen preparations for the Ati-Atihan festival in Kalibo and the Dinagyang in Iloilo City which are held in January in honor of the Holy Child Jesus.
At least 25 tribes will join the Ati-Atihan in Kalibo, Aklan’s capital, on Jan. 18 and 19.
The tribes will vie for P704,000 in prizes in five categories, according to Lalaine Nam-ay of the Kalibo Sto. Niño Ati-Atihan Foundation Inc. (Kasafi).
Eight tribes will compete in the Big Tribe category, five in the Small Tribe category, seven in the Balik-Ati and five in the Modern categories.
The number of participating tribes this year is fewer than the 30 that joined the festival last year. Some of the tribes backed out due to financial constraints. Some lost their costumes to the supertyphoon, according to Nam-ay.
Yolanda destroyed many houses and other structures in Aklan.
Festival organizers, however, have maintained last year’s prize kitty and subsidies to the competing tribes totalling P812,000.
Hotels in Kalibo and neighboring towns are fully booked. Many guests will stay in local homes, according to Nam-ay.
Aside from the contests, the Kalibo Ati-Atihan is also famous for its spontaneous street dancing. Revelers freely dance with the competing tribes whose members are representatives of private companies, families, barangays (villages), towns and schools.
The Ati-Atihan is considered the merriest among the Sto. Niño festivals, which include Iloilo’s Dinagyang on Jan. 26, and Cebu’s Sinulog on Jan. 19.
The Ati-Atihan traces its roots to the 13th century as a pagan ritual of the Aeta people. In the 18th century, it was transformed into a Christian celebration of the baptism of 1,000 inhabitants of Kalibo by a Spanish priest.
The name of the town is said to have been derived from “Isa ka Libo,” referring to those first baptized.
Organizers of Iloilo City’s Dinagyang festival also expect thousands of tourists for the weeklong festivities peaking on Jan. 25 and 26.
Ben Jimena, city tourism officer, said at least 10 tribes will compete in Dinagyang’s Ati tribe contest and 11 in the Kasadyahan regional cultural presentation.
Jimena said the Kasadyahan festival will not be a competition of performances like last year because of the limited budget for prizes.
He said groups joining the Kasadyahan, which come mostly from Iloilo and other provinces, have asked for bigger subsidies due to the impact of the typhoon.
The northern towns of Iloilo were also hit hard by the supertyphoon along with northern Antique and Capiz.
Tribes in the Ati contest will receive P320,000 from the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation Inc. The Kasadyan participants will also get P250,000 each.